St. James Elementary parents express mold concerns to Horry school board members

St. James Elementary parents discuss mold issues at the school

Parents of St. James Elementary School students met to discuss mold issues at the school.
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Parents of St. James Elementary School students met to discuss mold issues at the school.

Horry County Schools staff updated board members on efforts to solve mold issues at St. James Elementary School, but concerned parents continue to push for more.

Daryl Brown, the district’s chief officer for support services, told board members Monday that another round of air-quality testing had been conducted at the school earlier in the day. It’s the fourth such testing performed by Palmetto EHS, LLC, at the school since late November.

The latest testing was limited to two rooms that a Feb. 10 testing identified with amplified mold spores. Staff and students were relocated from these rooms while cleaning was conducted, according to an email from Brown to parents.

St. James parents, who have organized under a Facebook group with more than 600 members, have questioned the quality of testing and cleaning performed at the school, and dozens showed up at Monday’s board meeting to voice their concern.

“I don’t buy the fact that the mold issue has been taken care of,” parent Will Taylor told the board during the meeting’s public comment section.

Meredith Smith, another St. James parent, read off a list of demands the group had organized into a petition.

Their demands include: hiring a third-party testing lab to investigate and prove the school is 100 percent safe from mold spores; hiring an engineer to locate and fix any sources of water infiltration; more transparent communication; and mold remediation guidelines approved by a third-party contractor enacted by the district.

The petition has garnered more than 1,100 signatures since it was posted online Friday.

HCS Superintendent Rick Maxey assured board members that the district would never put students or teachers in danger and will continue to do everything it can to ensure any mold issues are quickly resolved. He also noted a lengthy list of credentials for Colleen Eubanks, the founder and president of Palmetto EHS.

Maxey also told board members that he sent a letter Feb. 11 to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control describing the issues and the district’s response, seeking any further recommendations.

Myra Reece, DHEC’s director of environmental affairs, responded that the department has no regulatory authority nor technical expertise to address mold concerns.

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Investigative project reporter David Weissman joined The Sun News after three years working at The York Dispatch in Pennsylvania, where he earned awards for his investigative reports on topics including health, business, politics and education.